To compare the effects of erythromycin and metoclopramide on gastric emptying and symptoms of gastroparesis in diabetic patients with delayed gastric emptying.


The study group consisted of 13 patients with symptoms of severe gastroparesis and delayed gastric emptying. Gastric emptying was evaluated using a radionuclide method, and gastrointestinal symptoms were scored. The patients were given either erythromycin (250 mg 3 times/day) or metoclopramide (10 mg 3 times/day) in random order for 3 wk, and after a washout period of 3 wk they were crossed-over to the other medication for another 3 wk. Parameters of gastric emptying were assessed before treatment and after both erythromycin and metoclopramide administration.


The half-time of gastric emptying in diabetic subjects was 110 (77–120) min before treatment. At 60 and 90 min, the median value of residual isotope activity was 66.5 (55–83.5) and 55% (43–74.3), respectively. The half-time decreased to 55 min (28.6–115) after 3 wk of treatment with erythromycin and percentages of meal retention in the stomach at 60 and 90 min were 49.9 (38.4–70) and 40.5% (29.7–60), respectively. After taking metoclopramide, the median value of half-time was 67 min (15–115) and percentages of meal retention at 60 and 90 min were 51 (34.5–93.9) and 42% (24–71.2), respectively. When compared with baseline values a significant difference in gastric emptying parameters was found after both erythromycin and metoclopramide. A significant improvement of the total score for gastrointestinal symptoms was observed with both drugs, but this improvement was more pronounced with erythromycin.


Erythromycin, a macrolide antibiotic and a motilin receptor agonist, appears to stimulate intestinal motility and seems to be an alternative agent for the treatment of gastroparesis caused by diabetic autonomic neuropathy.

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